Monthly Archives: September 2012

An open mind is a terrible thing to waste or one cardinal expat rule to observe

“You are kidding me,” I was thinking to myself as we were taking a relaxation pose for the THIRD time during the last 30 minutes of a yoga class. “That’s what they call yoga?!?!?!”

This was the third yoga class I was trying in a desperate attempt to find the one I am going to love. Yoga was a big part of my life at my previous post – the part that kept me sane, healthy and fit – and so naturally finding a yoga class was essential.  Little did I know (or rather little did I expect!) that what they call yoga here and what I am used to calling yoga is not quite the same thing.

Three trials later I am still frustrated with yoga classes.  I still don’t have the one I absolutely love. I am also really missing Whole Foods and the abundance of organic produce.  And judging from how disconnected I felt during the last night’s Rosh Hashanah services, I am going to miss my reform congregation too.

But this post isn’t about the things I cannot find in the new place. This post is about the attitude I insist on assuming when looking for said things. When the feelings of disappointment surface, I notice them and decide that having those feelings isn’t going to change much.  Yoga is still going to be the same, there will still be no Whole Foods, and the services at the Conservative synagogue are never going to replace the spiritual journey I experience at the Reform.

And so I do what I did that time at yoga when I was having to endure yet another relaxation instead of a downward dog – I say to myself: “I am going to keep an open mind. This may still turn out better… or different somehow. And even if it doesn’t and ends up being disappointing, I can write it off as an experience from which I am going to learn.”

Keep an open mind, baby.  You never know what you are going to get.

Are you an expat woman who is going through some challenges? Or do you know someone who is? If so, join our Expat Women Academy – a one of a kind program that provides expat women with strategies to overcome expatriate challenges. Three kinds of enrollment are available and all three offer money back guarantee!

Expat women’s guide to guilt, shame, and embarrassment — and how these three emotions create a very different impact

by Margarita

As women we are pretty much used to feeling guilty.

As expat women we are used to watching our guilt grow in direct proportion to the proliferation of experiences of things going wrong, of failing at something, or of feeling sorry for ourselves. If there were a tournament on guilt, expat women would probably win it, hands down.

And while this isn’t something to be proud of, it is definitely something to learn from. Having so much experience with feeling guilty can translate into developing resilience for feeling guilty. And since guilt can easily poison your life, why not work on recognizing it, pinning it down, and eliminating it from your life?

Ready? Set? Go?

Not so fast.

First I wanted to draw a very significant distinction between guilt and another emotion that many confuse with guilt – shame. Brené Brown’s groundbreaking work on shame (see her TED video here) identifies shame as a state of mind that is even more poisonous than guilt. While guilt makes us feel bad for what we did, shame makes us feel bad for who we are.

For instance:

  • Guilt: I feel bad because I am not earning money.
  • Shame: I am worthless because I am not earning money.
  • Guilt: I feel guilty for going out while leaving children with a nanny.
  • Shame: I am a bad parent for going out while leaving children with a nanny.
  • Guilt: I feel bad because I am having trouble making friends.
  • Shame: I am flawed because I am having trouble making friends.

Get the difference? Shame attacks us at our core, it attacks the inside of who we are, it pins us down as unworthy, useless, bad, and damaged.

Brené Brown’s definition of shame is: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting and competing social-community expectations. Shame leaves women feeling trapped, powerless and isolated.”

The last sentence in this definition is the key when it comes to distinguishing between shame and guilt (and embarrassment).

Being embarrassed and feeling guilty is often the result of doing something wrong and, as a result, this “doing” may inspire us to change our ways, make amends, grow, and learn.

Feeling shame has a different effect. It isolates us, makes us feel trapped and powerless. It can literally destroy us… if we let it.

So the next time you feel a familiar pang of guilt coming on, look closely.

  • Is it guilt or is it shame? Is it about your “doing” or about your “being”?
  • How culturally-determined is your shame? In other words, how did the expectations of a culture in which you grew up contributed to you feeling shameful? What’s your shame’s trigger?
  • What can you do about this trigger?

We will be doing a lot of work around guilt and shame in our Expat Women Academy program that starts on October 1, 2012. It’s a one of a kind program that provides expat women with strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.

There are three different ways of joining the program — and all of them provide a money-back-guarantee. So join us for the Expat Women Academy and kiss those feelings of guilt or shame good-bye!